March 22, 2019 4:54 pm
Updated: March 25, 2019 8:18 am

AIM program provides support for those with Down syndrome and their families

WATCH ABOVE: AIM is a provincial, non-profit organization that helps individuals up to 22 years old with Down syndrome unlock their full potential.

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Every two weeks, 11-year-old Isabelle Cross attends the Ability in Me (AIM) program for an afternoon of speech therapy and reading.

Modelled after a program in Calgary, AIM is a provincial, non-profit organization that helps individuals up to the age of 22 with Down syndrome unlock their full potential.

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Isabelle has been part of the program since its inception in 2015, but before AIM, she and her mom, Lynn, were part of a small contingent of families that made the out-of-province trek for support.

“Couple of the parents decided we need a program like this in Saskatchewan because there’s really a gap in resources,” Lynn Cross said.

“That’s when really AIM was founded to provide that base so we wouldn’t have to travel to Calgary anymore.”

Now in existence for four years, the AIM program has grown from 40 families to 100, offering a number of services like speech and language pathology, occupational and music therapy, and a literacy program.

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“Having a space where we are able to have children and young adults come here, work on strategies in a comfortable setting, and then take those strategies and move them into the classroom,” AIM executive director Tammy Ives said.

Speech-language pathologist, Sarah Comeau said some of those strategies include breaking down larger skills into smaller components.

“Eye contact, body language, which words to select and put together which topics to stay on,” Comeau explained. “Working on those smalls steps and explicitly teaching them to our students.”

“We feel it’s very important to work collaboratively with not only the parents, but also the schools, and that’s where we see the most impact,” Ives said.

For Lynn, the biggest hurdle is finding out what her daughter is going to be capable of.

“As a parent, Down syndrome doesn’t come with a manual, so making sure that we can give her the tools she needs to be successful in the future – whatever that looks like for her,” she said.

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She credits the AIM program for not only setting Isabelle up for success but for meaningful inclusion as well.

“It’s inclusion with the school, it’s inclusion with her community,” Lynn said. “It’s providing all of those aspects whether it’s the speech, the social and the reading.”

Meeting other families with similar challenges also provides another layer to the network of support.

“We all just really get what it’s like,” Lynn said. “To have their support and that shoulder to kind of cry on or get advice from – it’s invaluable.”

“Frankly I don’t know where we’d be without AIM.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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